Here come the girls – and they mean business

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Colin Cameron

Enterprise was the name of the game as women from six countries boldly went where no women had gone before.

Around 50 women from rural parts of Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Canada and Scotland took part in the three day W-Power seminar, in the first visit of its kind to Scotland.

Organised by Highlands and islands Enterprise (HIE) as part of the Northern Periphery and Arctic programme, the purpose of the seminar was to explore the challenges facing female entrepreneurs in sparsely populated areas – and how these can be overcome.

Financial adviser Emily Campbell from Oban attended the W-Power seminar and said: ‘I think this event has been amazing. The things that W-Power is talking about are the same issues that we talk about every month at Oban Women in Business.

‘In fact, we all face the same issues across every country represented here today.

‘I see the power of networking and bringing women together has really boosted my own network and clientele. I get inspiration from the women and their businesses.’

Between June 10 and 14, the women visited Portavadie Marina and the Inveraray Inn and took in visits to women-led businesses, including Benmore Cafe by Loch Eck, Beinn an Tuirc distillery, Kintyre  and Argyll Coffee Roasters at Tighnabruaich.

The itinerary included presentations on using tools such as virtual networking and digital marketing in tackling some of the challenges of doing business in sparsely populated areas.

Accessing finance, peer learning and gender-aware business coaching were also discussed.

A networking and learning session featured real life stories about the opportunities and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and information about support available through the W-Power programme.

Cathy Higginson, HIE’s W-Power project manager, said: ‘W-Power has been in existence for around six months. It is about female entrepreneurship, women in business, specifically in remote rural areas.

‘Some of the challenges involve isolation in terms of moral and peer support, distance to market and the costs this entails. We also find that rural communities can be a bit more traditional in outlook when it come to women starting a businesses and the support is sometimes not there.’

She continued: ‘Women are incredibly creative and experts at juggling things. They are also particularly strong on social media.

‘And when you bring them together in a room it becomes a very supportive environment.

‘W-Power is starting to connect women.’